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social sciences

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Kellor, Frances Alice (1873-1952)  
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Roosevelt said he had, "always favored woman's suffrage, but only tepidly, until my association with women like Jane Addams and Frances Kellor, . . . changed me into a zealous instead of a lukewarm adherent of the cause."

The New York Times considered it nearly unbelievable that a woman held so prominent a position in a political campaign. Kellor's work for Roosevelt broke ground for women.

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After Roosevelt's defeat, the Progressive Party bifurcated. The political wing continued fighting for votes while Kellor's half, called the Progressive Service, attempted to channel social activism into national politics.

The Service's sociological department studied social problems. The legal branch wrote bills to fix the problems. And the educational branch, via local and state chapters, fomented support for the legal solutions. Kellor viewed this scheme wherein sociologists proposed legislation that passed via popular backing as a new form of government. For Kellor, participatory activism and social justice moved us towards American ideals.

In 1915, Kellor published another version of Out of Work. While the title remained the same, the book nearly doubled in size. It examined all unemployment, not just that of domestic workers or women. This version of Out of Work was the first book that viewed unemployment as a structural problem for which the Federal government should assume responsibility.

Kellor's work in labor relations promoted the new idea that the provision of benefits and clean and happy workplaces would forestall strikes and reduce worker turnover. Kellor made important contributions to our national understanding of unemployment and employment.

Kellor also took a leading role in the 1916 Republican Presidential campaign of Charles Evans Hughes. She headed the Women's Committee of the National Hughes Alliance. In this capacity, she took many women activists on a speaking tour across America via train. She undertook this endeavor in order to show that women could compete effectively in the male arena of politics. She lectured her women about the "masculine" manner of speaking.

Because it became controversial, Kellor's embattled train tour may have actually cost Hughes the 1916 election. But, as the last national Presidential campaign to publicly advocate suffrage (i.e., the last one to need to), it met with long-term success.

In 1916 Kellor also released her most searing work concerning Americanization, Straight America: A Call to National Service. The subtitle uses the name of her Progressive Party organization, and makes clear that what is needed is not passivity, but more activism.

It bears noting that immigrants were not the intended readers of Straight America. Rather, the book directs its message to long-term Americans and industrialists. It argues that exploitation causes unhappiness and, thus, runs counter to the goals of Americanization. What divides America, she contends, is not immigrants, but prejudice against immigrants. For Kellor, true Americanism was rooted in social justice and inclusion.

As 1920 approached, the country regarded immigrants with increasing suspicion. Kellor had some success in countering this cynicism. In 1919, an association of 400 industrialists, led by Coleman du Pont, the head of the powerful DuPont Company, bought her the American Association of Foreign Language Newspapers (AAFLN). This agency placed the majority of English language advertising in the foreign language newspapers in America. Thus, as the President of the AAFLN, Kellor gained control of the majority of advertising in America's foreign language media.

As the president of the AAFLN, Kellor denounced the Red Scare deportations and greatly contributed to the defeat of Congressional efforts to ban foreign language media. But her efforts to promote an open border and increased immigration fell on deaf ears. In 1921, Congress adopted very tight restrictions on immigration.

With a drastically reduced number of immigrants, the need for the Americanization movement was also drastically reduced.

Many features of modern America reflect Kellor's efforts. Kellor has been noticed as a forerunner of Title IX, which supports women's athletic programs. Other programs, such as Head Start, reflect the belief that poor environments can increase criminality, which Kellor championed.

Kellor's leadership in the 1912 and 1916 presidential elections not only helped achieve women's suffrage, it also helped demonstrate that women were fully capable as politicians

Additionally, Kellor's books and articles also moved us towards seeing unemployment as a national problem that needed to be addressed by the federal government.

In 1921, Kellor launched the field of international arbitration. In 1924, she co-authored a two-volume analysis of the League of Nations entitled, Security against War. The book demonstrated the negative effects of the League of Nations' weak legal branch.

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